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Constructing water and climate change to empower democratic choices: pitfalls and abysses

klervi Fustec
Julie Trottier
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper analyses critically the research on water and climate change produced by successive European Union Framework Programs. The scientific production of knowledge on climate change and water usually aims at empowering democratic decision making concerning the environment. Mathematical models have become a hegemonic approach in this field, both in natural and social science. The paper explores the origins and ramifications of this phenomenon. An overview of the European Union framework Programs projects on climate change and water shows a great number of projects focusing on the Mediterranean area. The manner their considerations are projected on the Middle East is examined. Analysing the construction of scientific knowledge within these projects raises the questions of whether it can actually empower local actors within democratic decision making. The production of techno-science is shaped by power relations and social practices. Discourses on water and climate change are socially and politically constructed. Yet, their scientific character is usually portrayed as disembedding water and climate change from values and politics. The conceptions of nature that underpin the scientific discourses within these projects are analysed. They have allowed these studies to produce what Linton has called “modern water”, an essentialised conception of water that is a-historical, homogeneous and disembedded from any social relations. This paper studies the manner European Union Framework Programs research projects have relied on and produced “modern water”, ultimately hampering the use of their results within democratic processes among local actors.